06 February 2011

Chapter 31: "Departing the Camp," Pt 1

Erie View 13
A final view of
Erie.  This was the original section of the bunkhouse,
built in 1916.   --Simpson files
 The Indian team completed the work on the Erie barracks in five days--well ahead of
the time anyone had estimated for completing the work. 
“It’s over, Cap.  Now we have to decide if we’re staying.  If it’s all right
with you, I’d like to check on Dad.  If he’s okay, I want to stay on
here for a while.”
“I’m ready to work another month here.  Maybe more.  It’s been easy to live
here since I knocked Sharkey down.  They’d rather try to beat us on the
table.  By my count, Sla’cheen, we’re still ahead.”
“We’ve got some good competition, but we’re still the team to beat, Cap. 
Better to be known as billiards champs than as the men to fight.  I
think they know about your boxing match, even though no one has said
“Maybe it’s better that way.”
“I’m going down the hall to Eldon’s office to see if he can phone camp for
me.  He wants a decision from us tonight, since all we have left to do
is disassemble the scaffolding and do the other cleanup work.”
“I’ve got this book one of the men loaned me that I want to read tonight. 
I’ll be here, Sla’cheen.”
“Really ?  What’ve you got?”
The Iron Trail.  It’s about our very own railroad, except the author
calls it the Salmon River and Northwestern Railway.  Imagine
that.  We’re so far from anything else, who’d have thought someone would
write a novel about our railroad?  We’re not even close to Anchorage or
Fairbanks or even Juneau.”
“Let me see that.  Rex Beach?  Never heard of him.  Hmm . . . it says  ‘The
raging elements--uncontrollable torrents and massive approaching
glaciers--were not the only enemies in Alaska at the turn of the century . . .’

I’ll say.  If they only knew.  I may have to stick around camp just so I can read this
book you borrowed.  Got to go see the foreman.”
The foreman’s office and adjoining living quarters were on the south end of
the building on the same floor. 
“Johnny ! What can I do for you this evening ? Have you two decided if you want
to stay on ?”
“Could you get ahold of Dad for me ?  I need to know his condition before I
decide anything.”
“Oh, yes.  Certainly.  I’ll call down to the office and get back with you. 
You’ll be in your room ?”
“Yes.  I’ve got to write a letter to Mom.”
“Very fine.  I’ll get back to you when I have him on the line.”
Johnny returned to the room to find Cap concentrating on the novel.
“There don’t seem to be any Indians in this, but I’m working through it
anyway.  Mostly it seems to take place around the great bridge at
forty-nine mile.”
waiting to hear back from Eldon.  He’s phoning down to the office to see
if someone can find Dad.”

Kennecott miner
miner hard at work.  --UAF Archives
He sat down on his lower bunk and began to write to Helen Nicolai.

Dear Mom,
Whoever is reading this, make sure it is brother Charles.  This is
family business. I know I haven’t written since we arrived at Kennecott. 
We thought we were leaving, but we have new work at Erie.  You
don’t want to know.  Cap is doing fine.  Tell his father Cap
is okay.  Dad is not doing well at all.  I wrote you that he
wanted to buy his own cabin.  I think he should live with you in
grandfather’s old place.  He needs you to take care of him.  I
told him you would.  We will bring him back with us when we come
home.  It should be soon now.
Love, your son . . .

There was a knock at the door.  It was Eldon.
“Johnny, I have Frank on the phone.  He wants to talk to you.”
Johnny hurried the brief distance down the hall to Eldon’s corner
office.  It contained two desks facing each other.  On top of
one of them were stacks of flattened engineering drawings of mine
workings.  The corner windows looked upon Root Glacier and Donohoe
Peak, but it was too dark to see anything except the last light in an
ever-darkening sky. 
“Frank, is that you?  You have Dad there?  Would you put him
on ?”
“Dad, good to hear your voice.  You’re doing fine ?  Are you
sure ?  I’m done with the job here, but . . . Oh, you know already. 
That’s fine with you ? Will you be okay for a little longer ? Take care
of yourself, Dad. We’ll be down soon.  I’ll call you again.  I
already wrote Mom we’re coming home soon.”
“He says he’s okay, Mr. Johnson.  Says he wants me to continue up
here, if that’s what I want.  I need to talk with Cap one more
time, then I’ll let you know.”

Erie Profile
A profile view of
the Erie section of the Kennecott mine system centering on the
Erie incline shaft. The main levels were the 100 level (top),
300 level, 600 level (near the middle) and the 1050 level at the
bottom of the mine. That level connected to the Mother Lode mine
and was non-productive. Most of the ore centered on the 300 to
the 600 levels.   --Simpson files, courtesy of Ray

The men had been at work two weeks working in the new Erie incline shaft
at the 300 level.  Frank Buckner had already been reassigned to the
Jumbo to continue his mineral evaluations along the new cross-cut
tunnel. He was in barracks No. 2 when the phone call came.
“Frank, this is Bill.  I have bad news.  Emil Gadanski is in
the hospital.  Gillespie does not expect him to survive.  Not
much time.  Better notify his son immediately. You’ll need to
escort him back to camp.  Don’t call him, go there and bring him
back. Yes, bring Cap too. Thanks, Frank.”

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